Tuesday, March 1, 2016

London travel guide


London is a diverse and cultural city steeped in history, there are so many things to do there and lots of free activities to boot! It's in an English­ speaking country which makes it really easy for Singaporeans to travel there, not to mention that Londoners are mostly very friendly and helpful.

The city is especially attractive to those who love art and culture, since many of its museums are free and come with world­class collections. Those who love to shop will have no end of retail pleasure on the major shopping streets of Oxford and Regent, while foodies get ready to fill their stomachs with endless great cuisine from street markets to high tea salons.


In this London Travel Guide, we'll show you all the best things to see, do, eat and where to shop in one of the largest cities in Europe.

Top Things To See In London


One of the best ways to enjoy London is to go on a walk that covers the major London icons, including Tower of London, Tower Bridge, The Gherkin, Leadenhall and Bank of England.

Of course, since it's a free and easy walk, you can stop by any of the attractions or have a drink while resting your legs.

Start from the Tower Hill Underground Station, cross the Tower Bridge and follow the signs over to the Tower of London.

Tower Of London

The Tower of London has been around since 1066 and has in its life time been a royal palace, a fortress, a prison and even an astronomical observatory.

One of the key attractions here is no doubt the Crown Jewels, which until today, are still regularly used by the Queen.


It's worth paying the entrance fee so that you have access to the Tower and the Crown Jewels display, historical re­enactments as well as the White Tower tour. Buy your tickets online here for a cheaper rate!

I was very lucky to be there in 2014 when the Tower of London had a major art installation which filled the area with 888,246 red poppies to mark the 100 year anniversary since the first day of Britain's involvement in the First World War. It was quite a spectacular sight!

Following the Tower of London, walk alongside River Thames towards London Bridge. Continue this route and you'll arrive at The Monument, one of London's outstanding icons built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London and the rebuilding of the city.

The Gherkin


Following past the Lloyds building, you will see a fairly modern building call the Swiss RE building, or more affectionately known as The Gherkin. While it's definitely not the tallest building there, its unique architecture is now one of the key highlights along London's CBD area.

Leadenhall Market

You can walk by to the nearby Leadenhall Market which is a very pretty victorian market hall which has a variety of shops and cafes, perfect for a short tea break to rest your feet.

Bank Of England

From Leadenhall, go down Threadneedle Street and go towards Bank of England. The building has been here since 1734, although the original building has been extended to its current size.

Within the bank, you can visit the Bank of England Museum that's opened on weekdays. Here you'll get to view some of its own bank notes and coins, as well as important documents and artefacts.

Following your visit here, walk past St Paul's Cathedral, a majestic church that's used for a number of major state occasions and even royal weddings. From here, walk across the Millennium Bridge to the south bank of the Thames.

Tower Bridge


Following the path straight after crossing the Millennium Bridge, other sights to check out include the Globe Theatre, a dedicated theatre that focuses on Shakespeare's works.

Lastly, end at the iconic Tower Bridge, where you can enjoy a free viewing of the bridge lift during various times of the day, enjoy an in­depth tour, visit the exhibitions or simply, admire the night lights of the London CBD after your dinner.

Top Things To Do In London


Museums

London has some of the best museums I've seen and the great thing is that so many of them are free! If you are on a budget and love art and culture, visiting museums literally gives you a great way to entertain yourself, gain some knowledge and what's the best part? It's free!

Museum Of London ​- Permanent galleries showcase over 450,000 years of London's history, spanning medieval London, Roman times and some of London's key historical moments. Entrance is free.

British Museum​ - This museum is one of the oldest in the world, having been founded in 1753 and it has many impressive collections of archaeological findings, art, antiquities, prehistoric and historical material.


The museum is free to visit and opens late till 8.30 p.m. on Fridays.

Natural History Museum ​- This remains one of the most highly­raved­about museums in London.


Dinosaur skeletons, stuffed birds, plant history and human evolution make this museum such a treasure and an absolute delight for any kids or the child in us! And yes, entrance to permanent collections is free as well!

Watch A Musical

For any culture vulture, a visit to London will not be complete without watching at least one musical. Some popular musicals are ones we already know here - The Lion King, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, Phantom of the Opera and Billy Elliot.

There are so many shows going on and most of the full­priced tickets are still half of the price it costs in Singapore!

If the experience of watching a theatre matters more than the choice of shows, be sure to head to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square for last­minute London show deals!

Visit Buckingham Palace

As the working headquarters of the British Monarchy, you can be sure that you'll be in awe by the lush interiors and the spaciousness of the entire complex.


The palace's history dates back to the 1600s and has been home to centuries of British royalty. A full admission ticket to Buckingham Palace (37 pounds) gives you access to the State Rooms, Queen's Gallery and the Royal Mews.

Remember to plan your visit so that you can catch the changing of guards ­ a colourful ceremony and a royal display of British pageantry.

What To Eat In London


English cuisine is pretty hard to define; while it has some distinctive attributes of its own, there are lots of cultural influences from elsewhere, as well as significant importation of ingredients from other countries.

While we may have some ideas of what "English food' might be - fish & chips, meat pies and scones, you'll find a diversity of food in London and one of the best ways to try many of the different types of food is at the markets!

Borough Markets

Talk about Borough and I feel myself salivating. I have a keen memory of this market because it has such exceptional produce and cooked food. They have lunch markets on weekdays, as well as full markets from Wednesday to Saturday.

Can you imagine, this market dates back to the 13th century! Delight yourself with some local produce and food souvenirs, but don't forget to try some of its well­ known stalls here.


Start with a cuppa from famous Monmouth coffee company (don't be scared by the queue, it moves fast), fresh oyster appetisers at Richard Haward's, a mustard­dripped Boston sausage and duck confit sandwich at Le Marche du Quartier.

Lastly, end your meal with some cheese from the many dairy product stalls around, or finish at Artisan Du Chocolat with some sweet treats.

High Tea

It was said that long ago, it was usual for the English to have only 2 meals a day - breakfast and dinner. And it was because of the drop in energy in the afternoon that the idea of having an afternoon tea with some light snacks was introduced.

While the concept of brunch and high tea isn't new in Singapore, it still doesn't beat having a traditional high tea in London!

There are plenty of places offering high tea in London, and most come with pretty porcelain tea sets, exquisite bite­sized sweets and pastries.

What's more, some of these hotels and tea salons are so well decorated and regal looking that it's almost worth paying for a high tea just for a photo opportunity!

Some good high tea places to check out include Fortnum & Mason (Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon), Kensington Royal Palace (high tea in a palace!) and Claridge's, which has its in­house tea connoisseur.

Be aware though, that most of these places are not cheap and are comparable to our brunches at 5­star hotels, but it's maybe the best "tai­tai" experience you can have in London!

Fish & Chips

If there's a representative dish of English food, that would likely be fish & chips. You can find this dish almost everywhere you walk, from takeaways and bars to restaurants.

One of the places that I had a great fish & chips at was The Horniman at Hay's, a pub near the HMS Belfast, right next to the River Thames. It's a great place to chill out for a beer, or a casual dinner with a nice sea view.

Other great fish & chips stalls in London include Poppies, Golden Union and Golden Hind.

Where To Shop In London


There's no lack of shopping places in London - those who love shopping will have a never­ending pleasure strolling down Regent and Oxford street, as well as exploring some of the city's best markets.

Harrods

You can't miss the Harrods department store in London. The shop offers 7 floors of retail therapy, spanning 330 departments it occupies some 20,000 square metres, making it one of the world's largest department stores.

Things are definitely not cheap here, but the food hall is worth a look, offering a wide selection of tea, chocolate and food souvenirs to bring home.

Some of the more popular gifts include Harrods tea, their quintessential shopper bags and teddy bears.

Heart Of London Shopping - Regent Street And Oxford Street.

Regent Street and Oxford Street are quite similar to our Orchard stretch in Singapore.

Along these two streets, you can find an array of large department stores such as John Lewis, Selfridges and Debenhams, as well as international brand stores such as Nike, H&M and Gap.

Remember to drop by Primark for a few hours of budget buys as well!

If you are looking for luxury boutiques and brands, you can walk on to the nearby Bond Street and Mayfair.

There you can find luxury brand boutiques of the likes of Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co.

Fans of Victoria's Secret will also be delighted to find a huge shop on New Bond Street, where you can get a hand on their full lingerie collection and Victoria's Secret Pink collection that you can't find in Singapore.

Camden Market

If there's one market you need to visit in London it's Camden Market. For one, the market is huge!

It doesn't solely focus on food like the Borough Market, you can find clothes, art shops, collectibles and of course, a food market as well.


Trust me, you can easily spend more than half a day there! In fact, it's been said that Camden Market gets around 10 million visitors each year. How's that for popularity?

The Camden Market is split into 2 parts, the Camden Stables market which features vintage clothing, furniture, collectibles and food stalls, and the Camden Lock market which focuses more on arts and crafts, fashion and books.

Also check out Cyberdog for a psychedelic shopping experience - I'm not telling you what to expect but prepare to be shocked!

A nice feature at the Camden market is the boat ride, which starts from the Camden Market right up to Little Venice.

Along the way, enjoy the sights of the London Zoo, Regent's canal and of course, London's very own "Little Venice" that provides a pretty sight of 18th century houses, flowy trees and still river waters.

Money­ Saving Tips For London


London is known for being an expensive city and one of the biggest expenses is accommodation. Hotels in London tend to be really pricey and sometimes very tiny and not so nice (unless you're prepared to pay a fortune for something fancy).

If you want to save money on a place to stay I'd recommend that you book a room through Airbnb or if you're feeling adventurous and want to meet some locals, you can try couchsurfing (which is free)!

Eating out can be really expensive or fairly cheap depending on your choice of venue. If you buy street food in small stores or eateries it can cost from 3 to 7 pounds (think kebabs, bagels, and finger food) which is very reasonable for London. The area of Chinatown also has a lot of fairly cheap places to eat, and you won't just find Chinese cuisine, there's a huge variety of restaurants there.

Try to avoid taxis and use public transport instead, you can take the tube or buses to get around the city easily and it's much cheaper than getting a taxi.

To save money on your flight, book it with a travel credit cards to enjoy discounts, cashback, miles or points.

This article was originally on GET.com at: London Travel Guide: Europe's Shopping And Cultural Paradise

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